Author Vince Bailey shares insight into Merging Paths, conclusion to the award-winning Curtis Jefferson series
Vince Bailey writes about the journey. In the case of African-American youth Curtis Jefferson, the protagonist of the award-winning series of the same name, it's been a journey filled with ghosts, both real and imagined. There's a running theme in Curtis's journey: evil, in whatever form it may take, can never really be destroyed; rather it takes a new shape.
Vince's original vision for this story also took a new shape—it transformed from a single tome into three individual novels. Path of the Half Moon—the first book in the Curtis Jefferson series—was the Winner of the Arizona Authors’ Association Literary Award and the Chanticleer International Book Awards for Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction. Book two--Courses of the Cursed—was a Finalist in the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. Merging Paths is the exciting conclusion to the colorful, intricate world presented in this unique paranormal series.
We caught up with Vince for a Q&A session that sheds some light on his intentions behind the series. Merging Paths is available in print and e-book on October 11, 2022.
I try to be subtle in my writing with regard to themes—I don’t think readers need to be hit over the head with pretty platitudes. -Vince Bailey
About Merging Paths
African American youth Curtis Jefferson’s supernatural saga of restless spirits and ghostly vendettas continues as Curtis escapes from Fort Grant—the remote detention facility to which he was unjustly sentenced. As he sets out upon a dangerous journey, Curtis realizes quickly that the century-old curse of Fort Grant has not been extinguished by the brutal demise of his nemesis, as was hoped.
This final installment in the award-winning Curtis Jefferson series follows our hero through his escape from the cursed reformatory, his struggle to survive a perilous desert crossing, and his attempts to evade a fierce lawman—one whose aim is not to capture, but to kill the young fugitive.
Meanwhile, in a parallel story related to the curse of Fort Grant, Isabel and Ray Cienfuegos continue to elude their spectral stalker, the murderous demon-spirit Ezra. Former chief of the Aravaipa Apache and self-appointed avenger of the mass murder of his people, the old shaman’s tireless pursuit of his quarry provokes a defensive instinct in Isabel, who refuses to be cornered. Merging Paths presents an alliance of protagonists who grapple with the forces of evil in its various forms, and concludes with a riotous climax that is sure to gratify readers who have followed the journey of good versus evil in Path of the Half Moon and Courses of the Cursed.
"As a young adult, I authored letters to my local newspaper, taking issue with home-grown matters that struck me as unjust or worthy of comment." -Vince Bailey
Interview with author Vince Bailey
We caught up with Vince upon the release of this final novel in the series for a behind-the-scenes look at the end to Curtis's long journey.
Tell us a little about your book’s title and what it represents.
As the final installment of a three-part series, Merging Paths, recaps its predecessor books, Path of the Half Moon and Courses of the Cursed, and brings the trilogy to its raucous conclusion. Each of the titles suggests a journey, rather than an experience. But I have to confess that, while I worked hard at presenting each of the three as a stand-alone work, the series was originally written start-to-finish as a single effort. Consequently, there are a number of sought-for resolutions held in abeyance for book three, including Curtis’s coming together with the characters and subplots evolving through the first two books—thus the title Merging Paths.
Tell us something in your book that is not in the summary.
Like its two parent novels, Merging Paths continues as a “frame story,” that is, a tale within a tale. We find Curtis feeling inclined to share his harrowing Fort Grant experiences with his friend, Vince. It is Curtis who tells the story while it is fresh in his mind, but it is Vince who absorbs the tale and commits it to ink, presumably years later. The tale-within-a-tale device introduces a number of intermittent points of clarification I call “interludes.” These interludes are presented by Vince in the first person, relating his dialogue with Curtis. But when the tale transitions to the narrative, it is offered in the third person. It is still Vince, channeling Curtis, so to speak, but from an omniscient perspective. With this background in mind, the ever-shifting points of view that punctuate the series should be quite simple for readers to navigate.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I try to be subtle in my writing with regard to themes—I don’t think readers need to be hit over the head with pretty platitudes. However, there certainly are a number of recurring themes in the Curtis Jefferson series that run just under the surface. One theme that merits mentioning involves the notion that evil can never really be completely vanquished. We see it all the time: whenever a wicked plot or evil actor seems to be extinguished, it invariably reincarnates itself in some other way. J.R.R. Tolkien said it best in the opening pages of Fellowship of the Ring: “Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.” In order to avoid spoilers in Merging Paths, I won’t cite examples—just a heads-up for readers to watch for it.
Do you plot your stories or just get an idea and run with it?
I have to laugh at myself over this one. As I said, I wrote the trilogy as one epic tome—1,200 pages blooming from the seed of an excerpt from another (ongoing) writing project. I think that effort was fueled in part by a need for me to know what happens next. Clearly, I leave the plotting to my characters, and I seem to have little control over what they do or say.
Tell us how you became a writer—what inspired you to write your first book.
I was always a daydreamer in grade school—these days they’d call it ADD—always scribbling down all the tales and vignettes that my wandering mind would conjure in order to distract me from long division. Later, I took up journaling as an extension of my adolescent scribbling. As a young adult, I authored a number of letters to my local newspaper, taking issue with home-grown matters that struck me as unjust or worthy of comment. Eventually, the paper hired me to pen a weekly column. In time, I began to write for magazines on a freelance basis (I still write a monthly column for a nationally distributed trade mag). I embarked on the Curtis Jefferson journey at the behest of my young sons who convinced me that I was (am) a pretty good yarn spinner.
Available October 11, 2022 in print and e-book